Posts Tagged ‘Happy New Year’

Simple Pleasures: The Spirit of Giving

A few weeks ago, my eldest grandson, 14, came to Maine to spend some time with us.  One day he accompanied me to the transfer station (a nice word for “The Dump”).  There is no garbage pickup in rural Maine; our local transfer station, about 8 miles away, is open several times a week during set hours and that’s where town residents haul their recyclable and regular trash.

When we went over to the dumpster that holds recyclable trash, my grandson noticed a few new-looking baseball cards sitting on a bunch of discarded corrugated cardboard.  He asked me if I would allow him to climb in the (clean) dumpster and take the cards.

“I think we’d better ask the guys who run the dump,” I answered.  Mostly I was concerned for my grandson’s safety – – I didn’t want them to not know my grandson was rummaging around in the dumpster, only to turn on the compactor and cause a horrific accident.

“You want the cards?  Sure!  Go ahead in and get ’em,” the transfer station employee said.  “And if you’d like me to start saving cards for you, just let me know,” he added.

The worker told us that one of the local residents makes “a little money on the side” by trading baseball cards.  He travels around New England, going to yard sales, auctions, and searching through Craigslist ads looking for baseball cards, which he buys in bulk.  He then goes through the stacks and stacks of cards, quickly filtering out 3 to 10 cards out of hundreds that have collectible value in today’s market.  The rest, he brings to the dump.

“I’ll save the cards for you if you want ’em,” the worker told us.  “Just say the word.”  Sure, I answered, we’d take whatever cards he’d scrounge up.  I didn’t think anything more about it.

A couple of weeks went by and my grandson returned home.  When I next ventured to the dump, the worker scurried towards me, carrying three cardboard boxes.

“I’ve been saving cards for you,” he said.  “And I’ll keep saving them until you tell me to stop,” he added.  I had forgotten about our conversation, but the transfer station worker had not.

I opened one of the boxes.  I couldn’t believe my eyes!  Each box contained at least 1,000 mint-condition baseball and football cards:  3,000 cards!

The initial three boxes of cards saved for me by the worker at the dump.  All were in clean, mint condition.

The initial three boxes of cards saved for me by the worker at the dump. All were in clean, mint condition.

Thanks to this transfer station worker’s kindness, I was now eligible for the World’s Best Savta (Grandmother) Award.  This is not an easy distinction when you’re talking about preteen and teen-aged boys for whom grandparents are most definitely not, in the ordinary sense of the word, “cool.”

I was so excited!  Thanking the worker multiple times  (and yes, I always bake him goodies every year during Christmas season, and make sure to ask him how his fishing and hunting are coming along in the Summer and Fall), I placed the boxes in the back of my car, imagining my grandsons’ faces when I presented them with the cards upon my return to my hometown.  This was definitely a case of one person’s trash being someone else’s treasure.  I emailed my kids, alerting them to my plans.

“Just got a boatload of discarded mint condition baseball cards for the boys.  Should keep them busy for hours!”

“Oh, no!”  was my children’s reply.  “More stuff!” they railed.  “Just one more thing to have to clean up after!” they groaned.  “We already have enough messes!”

“Spoken like a true parent,” I replied.  “When did you guys get so old and tired?  You don’t sound like my kids; you sound like I used to sound when you were little!  Just remember how much you used to love collecting these cards when you were kids,” I added with a dose of Jewish Mother guilt-tripping.

So with Chanuka coming, my husband and I drove down to our home town, and presented the cards to two sets of grandsons, boys ages 6 thru 14.  “I CAN’T BELIEVE IT!”  “THANK YOU SO MUCH!” “WOW!” “Savta, YOU ROCK!” “AWESOME!” “BEST! PRESENT! EVER!” were some of the reactions.  For the next six hours the boys got busy sorting the 3,000 cards.

Some of the grandsons sorting 3,000 baseball and football cards.  Their mother was convinced she'd never get her table back.

Some of the grandsons sorting 3,000 baseball and football cards. Their mother was convinced she’d never get her table back.

I have no idea if they found any treasures; for all I know these cards are totally worthless.  But for six hours (and four hours the following day), there was only joy:  no fighting, no sibling rivalry; the boy cousins had yet another bonding experience; and, completely free of charge and thanks to the simple kindness of my local dump worker in Maine . . .  I was the best Savta in the whole world.

Happy New Year to all!

We Are The World (Part II)

Last year at this time I reported that my blog had been visited by 15 countries.  This year, stats reveal that blogposts in Midlife In Maine have been read by people in 83 countries!  This astounds me.  I have no idea how people come to read my posts because I actually pay extra to WordPress to not accept any advertising on my site; so the opportunities to create more “traffic” or link via search engines are therefore few.

Besides the most frequent countries visiting Midlife In Maine (USA, Canada, and Israel) and the more common (Europe and South America) there are people visiting from Myanmar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates,  Kuwait, Lebanon, Botswana, Nepal, Iraq, Pakistan, Viet Nam, Serbia, Jordan, Korea,  Gambia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Cambodia (still nothing from Greenland!).

Although I’m not afraid to express my personal opinion, the things I write about are pretty innocuous.  My blog is not intended to be political nor to alienate those who may have ideas that are different from mine.  These stats indicate that even unintentionally, what we say may impact people we don’t even know exist (and may come back to bite us if we don’t measure our words with careful intent).  I’m not talking about a “Big Brother Is Watching You” sort of mentality; rather my point is that our words can elevate or cause hurt; inspire or oppress; encourage love or spread hate.  Our words, and the use of technology, have the potential for tremendous holiness or desecration.  That awareness is a critical responsibility that all of us citizens of the world share.  Free speech is a tremendous gift; let us not abuse it for hatred nor evil, but rather to ignite hope, reason, righteousness, joy, and creativity.  Let not the haters take away our humanity.

Many years ago, my youngest daughter studied in a religious seminary in Israel.  One day the school took the girls to visit a holy woman.  After meeting with her and hearing her words of wisdom, the girls lined up to request and receive personal blessings that each girl requested from her.  It was a sort of assembly line of pleas:  most requested that the holy woman pray on their behalf for Mr. Right, for the success of a father out of work, or for the recovery of a sick family member, etc.; and she was quick to give her sincere blessings with few words.  Many girls, many blessings; let’s keep the line moving; next!

When it was my daughter’s turn, she asked that the holy woman bless her with clarity.  To recognize truth.

The woman stopped the flow of the line.  She became very excited.  She took my daughter’s hands in hers, and blessed her and blessed her and blessed her.  Because, I think, in asking for clarity and truth, my daughter got it so right.

Gosh, there are so many things that are out of our control.  We certainly know people in 2013 who are sick or dead, or devastated by natural disaster.  But many things are within our power and reach; things that are not reliant on optimal health or finances, pleasant living conditions nor even political or personal liberty.  But the things that are within our control – – choices we can make – – are no less fearsome.

In 2014, let us pray that G-d gives us the clarity to choose correctly.